While some Northwestern students thought their biggest worry of the spring semester was locking down their ring by spring, every Raider was confronted with a bigger issue: the coronavirus, better known as COVID-19.
The COVID-19 disease first appeared in Wuhan, China in December 2019. Since then, the World Health Organization has deemed it a pandemic.
These kinds of viruses mainly affect animals, but this particular strand, SARS-CoV-2, has spread from animals to humans. The outbreak of SARS in 2002 and MERS in 2012 are in the same virus family as today’s COVID-19.
The virus can be transmitted through the droplets of a cough or sneeze and from being in close contact with people who have it. Due to the rapid nature of the virus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention called for social distancing precautions, resulting in temporary closures and altered business operations across the country.
Malls, libraries, bars and restaurants, hair salons, fitness centers, churches and schools have all been affected. Some states have issued stay-at-home or shelter-in-place orders, which ban all non-essential travel.
The rapid spread of the novel COVID-19 prompted NW to start taking action in early March. Students in the Netherlands and Ireland Spring Service Partnerships returned home early due to concerns over COVID-19 in Europe.
Since then, colleges across the nation have closed their campuses and transitioned to distance learning through online classrooms. On Friday, March 13, NW chose the same route, announcing the rest of the spring semester will be completed online.
Move-out day came two months early, and now NW conducts classes across the globe, meeting with students through a camera and microphone in their homes instead of in Orange City. Academics continue as a new normal is found, and the Campus Ministry Team tries its best to provide Christian formation opportunities through a digital format.
Students and staff are now adjusting to a different at-home lifestyle, finding a new routine in the midst of this pandemic.
“Once online classes started, it got a little harder because it was difficult to find motivation to do daily assignments and harder to focus on important lessons without being taught it in person,” freshman Keslie Paul said, who is now at her home in Frisco, Texas. “COVID-19 has really changed what I do every day because basically everything in my city is shut down.”
Other students have found the silver lining in this situation.
“I have confidence that this odd change is only temporary, and eventually, things could go back to the way they once were but slightly better,” said Angela Wintering, a sophomore theatre major who is home in Round Lake, Illinois. “What I mean by that is in reference to the principle that anything is more appreciated once you’ve had to be without it.”
For seniors, their college years ended two months too soon. Elizabeth Johnston, a public relations major, had her semester in Chicago cancelled, where life looked very different than life back in Iowa.
“The first big change has been going from a city of three million people to moving back to small town Iowa,” Johnston said. “I got so used to the constant crowds of people, the diversity of the people I saw in the city, riding the trains every day and never being alone while I was out on the streets or running errands. It’s been weird to see empty streets and not be part of the crowds of people every day.”
For extrovert Aften Pennings, COVID-19 not only halted her student teaching in Denver, but it has challenged her ability to be social.
“Sometimes it’s hard to be my healthiest self while at home, especially when I am not getting out to see people at all,” Pennings said, who’s back at home in South Dakota. “My extroverted side is kind of dying. Soon, online learning will begin for the Denver schools, so I am looking forward to learning about how to teach via online platforms only. This will prove especially challenging with the kindergarten through second graders I’m with right now, so we will see how that goes.”
Along with moving classes online, NW has cancelled all Summer Study Abroad programs and Summer of Service trips for the year.
As NW continues to conduct classes online, announcements regarding commencement and room and board refunds have yet to be released.